Let’s start here: do you think you have plantar fasciitis? If you do — you can find some potential indicators at that link — then a next logical question would be: How do I treat it?
There are numerous different approaches to treating plantar fasciitis, and they generally fall into two camps: hot therapy and cold therapy.
Hot Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
It’s important to begin with this idea: no single treatment for plantar fasciitis works for everyone, and oftentimes it’s a combination of treatments that will work best.
Heat therapy is one approach. Consider hot baths to treat foot pain, but keep these concepts in mind:
- Alternate hot baths with cold baths
- Heat alone can make symptoms worse for some runners
- If you are doing contrasting baths, end the hot baths by soaking your heels in cold water
Another hot therapy approach is a simple massage; this doesn’t necessarily apply heat, but it will apply friction to the affected heel area and help with plantar fasciitis. You can also place a tennis ball on the ground and gently roll it under your foot for 3-5 minutes; this loosens the plantar fasciitis and makes it less likely to become irritated.
Heating pads and hot rubs are additional approaches, but again remember the advice above: in some cases, heat-only will regress the heel pain, so you want to balance it out with cold therapy techniques.
Cold Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis
The best treatment in the eyes of many medical professionals for plantar fasciitis is the RICE method, outlined below:
Simply, it stands for:
Resting is often the hardest part for a lot of plantar fasciitis sufferers, because they tend to be active runners who want to get back at it. It’s also the most crucial part, because if you keep pounding away at sidewalks or trails with heel pain, that heel pain will worsen. Begin with rest, always. Typically 3-7 days is preferential.
Ice is the essence of cold therapy, i.e. applying ice. Typically, 15-20 minutes will be enough to reduce swelling.
Compression involves wrapping the ice in a towel around the affected heel area, and elevation is exactly what you think: lifting your leg onto a chair or something else to elevate the feet above the heart. This allows clean, healthy blood to reach the area afflicted by plantar fasciitis.
Other cold therapy approaches include:
- Ankle/heel wraps with embedded ice
- Alternating ice buckets with heat sources, as referenced above
- Consider night splints
- Frozen peas or protein applied directly to the area for 15 minutes
The best therapy methods for plantar fasciitis
As with most medical treatments, approaching heel pain or plantar fasciitis is usually best done as a mix between different concepts.
Here, the best overall approach tends to be:
- A focus on RICE for one week, with 15-20 minute icing increments and no running for over three days
- Alternating hot and cold therapy, but ending with a cold soak
- Investigating products for your heel and ankle — such as heel seat wraps — that may help accelerate the healing
If you have additional questions about plantar fasciitis hot and cold therapies, continue to poke around our site and feel free to contact us.